Bridgton Recreation Department Director Tom Tash grew up in Lincoln and shoveled snow off a pond near his home to go ice skating. To this day, he says there’s nothing like skating in an ice rink.

“People can spend the whole day here and not spend a penny and have a really good time,” said Tash, who volunteers several hours once a week to work at the town’s enclosed rink behind the old Town Hall on North High Street. As many as 100 people a day come to skate.

Music, a warming room, free loaner skates in almost every size and free hot chocolate make it a great deal, Tash said. “The community spends a lot of their time and has a passion for this ice rink.”

Bridgton, Norway, Oxford, Paris and West Paris operate their own ice rinks. Officials in other towns say they have been discouraged by lack of volunteers, time and lack of funding.

In Harrison, attempts to have a town-operated outdoor skating rink fell short this year in part because of a lack of volunteers.

“It takes a community effort to go out and shovel and scrape after each and every storm. Folks are just too busy working,” Harrison Recreation Director Paula Holt said.

Keeping up an ice rink is not easy, town officials agree. Liner leaks and bad drains have been a big problem in some town facilities this season.

In Oxford, for example, the town’s ice rink at the corner of King and Pleasant streets opened this week after being closed a month due to a plugged drain that caused water to bubble up over the asphalt floor and created pocket holes and other safety problems.

Town Clerk Ellen Morrison said the problem has been corrected, but one small area in the rink has been coned off because it is still not smooth. With the reopening of the ice rink, which has a roof over it, the adjacent community center is now also open for skaters.

A similar problem in West Paris kept that rink at the bottom of Derby Hill on Kingsbury Road closed this winter. Officials say they can not get the ice to stay level because of air pockets — a problem that may require a liner replacement, which can run up to $2,000.

While some rinks have had trouble maintaining safe ice time, others, such as Norway are moving ahead with improvements such as construction of a new warming hut that the building technology students at the Oxford Hills Technical High School are constructing.

Norway Recreation Director Deb Partridge said the 60- by 120-foot rink on Cottage Street is always busy on a good day.

Volunteers maintain it.

“Bruce Fox is my main ‘ice man’ and others volunteer to help him,” explained Partridge of the yearly set-up and maintenance program done by the longtime volunteer. “Bruce floods the rink and when it gets close to skatable, he starts using the NiceIce Resurfacer (I compare this to a hand-dragged Zamboni). A garden hose runs through this device and puts the water out in a fine stream that freezes very quickly. Bruce does this several times over the winter to keep the ice surface great for all.”

Partridge said she budgets about $1,500 each year for a new liner, minimal electrical costs and a small donation for Fox. The rink is open to anyone, resident or not, but children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

In Paris, Recreation Director Dana Chandler said the ice rink in the Dennis Rugg Sports Complex on Oxford Street is open for the second year.

“We use it as a parking lot in the summer and in the winter we turn it into an ice rink,” Chandler said.

Paris officials use a little different method to save money on their rink liner. The rink is lined with heavy plastic purchased from Paris Farmers Union each year for about $400. It’s a fraction of what they would have paid to purchase a professional liner.

Chandler said it is essentially the same material as a professional liner and must be replaced almost every year, which could be costly. Strips of plywood and several tanks of water from the Fire Department set the ice each season. A nearby hose in the adjacent well and a wand skimmer maintain the ice daily.

“Anyone can skate there,” Chandler said of the rink that’s open all day and evening until about 10 p.m. when the lights go out. Hockey is not allowed there.

In Bethel, the Chamber of Commerce operates the almost hockey-regulation size skating rink on a prepared grassy field at 37 Cross St. on “Festival Plaza.” The rink has no liner or asphalt under it.

Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the chamber, said there are several pairs of skates that have been donated for use, no rules and lighting from nearby street lamps at night. “It is a free skating area,” she said.

Tash considers Bridgton fortunate to have the community backing but he worries about the day the town can no longer financially support the ice rink.

“Ultimately my fear is that there is not a whole lot of room in town budgets for things like this,” said Tash, who is looking at grants to supplement the rink budget.

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